Men’s Basketball: Wildcats aim to limit Spartans from deep

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

Northwestern has not defeated Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan, since January 2009. To end that streak Sunday, the Wildcats will need to overcome one of college basketball’s best perimeter attacks.

The Spartans possess a deep crew of guards that have torched several opponents from long range this season. The Spartans are an even better outside shooting team than the Badgers, who buried the Cats last Sunday with 12-of-25 3-point shooting.

“(The Spartans) really shoot the ball well,” coach Chris Collins said. “They have three potent shooters on the perimeter.”

Michigan State is knocking down 41.8 percent from beyond the arc as a team, the fourth-best mark nationally. Four Spartan players are shooting better than 40 percent individually, with guards Denzel Valentine (47.1 percent) and Bryn Forbes (45.9 percent) sitting in the Big Ten’s top four.

Attempting to halt that stellar production will be an exhausting task for the Cats.

“You have to be cognizant of where those guys are on the floor,” Collins said of Michigan State’s shooters. “They get a lot of their threes in transition. They get the ball up the court really fast, and it forces you to make quick decisions and really have to talk and communicate to find those guys.”

The Spartans shot 12-of-17 from beyond the arc Thursday against Iowa, including 7-of-8 from point guard Travis Trice.

Not only can Trice shoot, but he is No. 2 in assists in the Big Ten with 5.9 per game.

NU point guard Bryant McIntosh will match up against Trice. The freshman said he understands the matchup will be a big test but is eager for the challenge.

“Thinking about it definitely excites me a little bit,” McIntosh said. “I’ve really enjoyed watching film of him and just the way he plays.”

McIntosh has admitted his defensive game is not as developed as his offensive game, which is one reason NU has struggled throughout the season defending the 3-point shot. With opponents draining triples at a 36.6-percent clip, the Cats rank No. 13 in the Big Ten and No. 276 in the nation.

Freshman Scottie Lindsey entered NU known for his outside shooting. But his size as a 6-foot-5 wing makes him a defensive asset as well on the perimeter, which could serve him well against Michigan State’s guards.

“My length is a big factor for staying in front of guys,” Lindsey said. “If I use my length, I can do my best to stay in front of (Trice).”

The Spartans aren’t barren down low. Even with lingering injuries dampening his effectiveness this season, forward Branden Dawson offers the team an offensive push in the post. The junior is averaging 11.2 points per game on 49.6 shooting for the season, and brings down an impressive 3.0 offensive rebounds per contest.

Still, stopping the Spartans from the outside is paramount, especially because the 3-point line has also been a decisive factor for NU. In their last seven games, the Cats allowed 51.2 percent shooting from deep in two losses compared to 30.7 percent in five wins.

Sunday’s game could be one-sided if the Cats fail to lock down the perimeter again.

“Our defense has been really good in the wins,” Collins said. “That’s the way it’s got to be. We have to play really good defense because we don’t have the firepower to throw up 80-plus points.”

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